Things we learned in MLS Week 11

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Here's what we noticed about MLS this week...

1. Sporting Kansas City is in (defensive) crisis

Sporting KC started the year with five players presumed capable of playing center back. Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin are one of the best CB pairings in the league; Ike Opara has more than 50 MLS appearances under his belt; Lawrence Olum is a capable utility player in his fourth season with the team; Erik Palmer-Brown has attracted the interest of Juventus.

The club will have anticipated Besler's departure for the World Cup - and he duly headed off to represent his country before this weekend's game. Losing Opara to a long-term injury earlier in the year wasn't part of the plan, but this is why you have a squad. Further unexpected stress on the team's center back resources arrived this week when Olum was called up to play for his country, Kenya - he's out until the end of May. And then Collin pulled up lame in Besler's last match before USMNT training camp.

Erik Palmer-Brown made his MLS debut for KC this weekend as the only available recognized center back in the squad. And he got sent off.

Starting May 23rd, KC has three games in eight days. For which the team will most likely be missing Besler, Olum and Opara; Palmer-Brown will be suspended for the first of them; and Collin's injury may keep him sidelined for a while also.

On the bright side, Dominic Dwyer has scored four goals in three games, so if they can find someone - anyone - to hold down the center back slots, KC might still be able to get something out of this stretch.


2. LA Galaxy has a road problem

LA hasn't won a game on the road since besting the Whitecaps in Vancouver on August 24th of last year. (Games against stadium co-habitants Chivas USA don't count) And the last road win before that was May 15th, 2013 against Philly. The Galaxy lost again on the road again this week: 1-0 in Houston.

The result leaves LA at the bottom of the Western Conference, with just nine points.

This might not too big a deal: MLS teams have long struggled to pick up points away from home; last year, the only club that won more games on the road than it lost was KC. LA has an oddly unbalance schedule: it has played six of eight games on the road (OK - five on the road; one of those six was against Chivas and is one of LA's two wins for the year to date).

Between now and the mid-June break, the Galaxy plays three out of four at home. Points are sorely needed to prevent the continuing road problems from keeping the club (already six points outside the playoff places in the West, though with three games in hand on Colorado) from sinking into a hole its absent World Cup stars (Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez) may otherwise find too deep to dig the team out of when they return.


3. Eddie Johnson CAN score a goal

EJ was left out of Jurgen Klinsmann's 30-man preliminary World Cup squad, which was a surprise - since Johnson had been a fairly regular part of Klinsi's camps and squads whenever available for selection. But goals have dried up for him recently. The most convincing explanation for EJ's failure to even get a call to the final audition for Brazil is the simplest: he's a striker who isn't scoring goals, and USMNT already has one of those (not for long though - right, Jozy?).

He spent most of the match against Montreal this weekend proving Klinsmann right: heading wide; failing to connect at all; or getting the angles wrong with his shooting.

And then, in the 84th minute, Eddie Johnson scored his first goal for D.C. United. It was simple - he beat a man in the air and nodded past the 'keeper - but it was well timed. EJ may have missed his chance for Brazil (though replacements can be called up for injured players at any time prior to the start of the tournament), but DC couldn't carry a scoreless striker indefinitely.

4. Uncapped Argentines run this league

Federico Higuain very nearly carried Columbus to an unlikely win in Portland in week 11. But the Crew was pegged back by goals from Maxi Urruti and Gaston Fernandez (and Diego Valeri's playmaking abilities, but he has played three times for Argentina, and thus is not included in this group).

Mauro Rosales doesn't count, because he has played for his country - but Martin Rivero has not, and he shared the credit with Rosales for setting up Chivas USA's goal this weekend.

Over in DC, Fabian Espindola coaxed Eddie Johnson into scoring a point-rescuing equalizer. In Salt Lake, Javier Morales went one better, setting up a goal and scoring the winner for his team.

The exodus of players to the World Cup this week has raised the question of which of the uncapped players in MLS is the best. It's a tough one to answer. Higuain might be the consensus choice after this weekend, but he just emerged from a three-game slump and his team is winless in eight matches.

Whoever it may be, he is likely Argentinian.

5. FC Dallas can't catch a break

KC's center back problem is extraordinary, but spare a thought too for once high-flying FC Dallas. The team needed a late goal to salvage a 1-1 draw at home this week. The result stemmed the tide of losses (four in a row up to this week), but extended the club's winless streak to five games.

As a team without any players headed to the World Cup, this part of the season - when other teams have sent players to Brazil - should be an opportunity for FCD to assert itself. Unfortunately, its strength has been sapped by injuries: George John is a long-term casualty; Kellyn Acosta started the year as first-choice right back, and is sidelined; playmaker Mauro Diaz (incidentally, also an Argentinian without a senior call-up for his country) is also out; midfield hard man Hendry Thomas pulled up lame recently.

And this week, set-piece maestro and FCD's top scorer, Michel, limped off mid-match. If he's out for any length of time (we'll have to wait for mid-week injury updates to find out), Dallas will officially have five bona fide starters unavailable - and in MLS, with limited squad numbers and depth, it's very hard to win when almost half your first-choice team can't play.


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